There’s been a dustup over comments made in support of popular liberal blogger Glenn Greenwald on several conservative sites. If you want to wade through the details you can check out the activity at Ace Of Spades, Patterico’s Pontifications, Riehl World View, and HotAir. The contention is that Glenn has engaged in sock puppetry – assuming different identities to leave comments in support of the oneself – a charge he denies.
First, I’ve seen the post linked about called things like, ‘nasty vile attacks’ and other similar characterizations. I take issue with that. I’ve seen sites combing through Greenwald’s bio (he’s the author of a book on The New York Times bestseller list right now) and asking question, which is a bit different that digging into the background of Joe/Jane Q. Blogger. Greenwald is on a promotional arc toward the liberal pundit class, and in that regard his background and experiences are every bit as relevant as someone like Ann Coulter’s are.*
Anyway the whole exercise is makes for mildly entertaining reading, but the gist of the charge today – that the a single comment, from a single IP address (at Patterico’s Pontifications) positively “identifies” Greenwald and matches to comments from the same address under different names – doesn’t quite jib with some extra facts I have at my disposal.
I had an e-mail exchange with Glenn last fall, and re-examining the message headers indicate that they were Brazilian in origin (but from a different ISP), and a comment left here last week by Glenn does not match the IP address published at Patric’s site, though it is from the same Brazilian ISP (NET Servios de Comunicao S.A.).
What does that all mean?
My best guess is that Greenwald has a Wi-Fi enabled laptop and moves around the country on occasion, and the IP address published (supposedly belonging to Glenn) is actually the one assigned (via DHCP) to the wireless router in the house he stays at in Brazil. As with any setup like that, the same address is shared by all computers behind the router. When the router is rebooted the ISP may (or may not) assign a different IP address to the router for the duration of the session.
The issue is addressed by Greenwald today in this post at Unclaimed Territory.
A new accusation is that I’ve been engaging in so-called “sock puppetry” by leaving comments in response to posts that attack me under other names., i.e., that I use multiple names to comment and the same comment was left at several blogs by the same IP address under different names.
Not frequently, I leave comments at blogs which criticize or respond to something I have written. I always, in every single instance, use my own name when doing so. I have never left a single comment at any other blog using any name other than my own, at least not since I began blogging. IP addresses signify the Internet account one uses, not any one individual. Those in the same household have the same IP address. In response to the personal attacks that have been oozing forth these last couple of weeks, others have left comments responding to them and correcting the factual inaccuracies, as have I. In each case when I did, I have used my own name.
Later Greenwald indicates that he is in a committed relationship with a Brazilian man named David, and that he splits his time between New York and Brazil. It’s seems likely that Greenwald would be living with his partner when he is in Brazil. Whether David has additional roommates is not indicated.
Working from the assumption that the IP address presented at Patrick’s site is from the house where Glenn resides when in Brazil, and taking Glenn at his word with regard to the commenting, the only logical (and likely) explanation is that his partner is the sock puppet**, i.e. Ellison, Wilson, Sam Mathews, Thomas Ellers, etc. In fact he all but admits it in the comment section:
What I said was that I do not write anything on blogs other than under my own name. I don’t care if others do, and if someone leaving comments under different names is the golden ring that right-wing bloggers think they’ve discovered, that is a pretty good reflection of how barren these attacks are.
With Glenn denying the charge the multi-personality, commenting machine that trolls posts on conservative blogs appears to be his Brazilian lover David.
Blame it on Rio…
Note: Whatever the actual situation may be, Glenn’s post does make for an interesting read as a mini-biography. Perhaps I’m in the decided minority, but I’ve always found Greenwald to be one of the more civil and engaging of the superstars of the left.***
* In relation to the sock puppet issue I didn’t notice anything excessively nasty, but YMMV…
** It’s unclear whether the partner of a blogger counts in the calculus of sock puppetry. None of the sites require authenticated access for commenting so changing identities, while frowned upon by all regular comment section participants (regardless of ideology), is as easy as typing in a different name. Those new to the blogosphere wouldn’t necessarily be familiar with the code of honor expected to be followed on sites with open commenting systems – that you pick an identity and stick with it. Goodness knows we’ve had the occasional problem here with that…
As an intimate of Glenn’s, one would assume David is highly motivated to defend his work, and may even have been leaving the comments without Glenn’s knowledge… until now. There was a case several years ago where the young daughter of a blogger left a nasty comment on a site that had been warring with her blogging parent. That turned out spectacularly bad, as someone decided that they’d sick CPS on the blogging parent, who hadn’t even realized that the child was following the links in the browsers history (on the family computer) to follow the blog war.
All that is to say that there’s hardly anything new in the blogosphere. Stuff like this was happening long before any of the actors in this drama arrived on the scene, though in those cases the blogs were usually personal in nature.
*** With bloggers on both sides, someone is usually able to cite some present or past offense. I took issue with Glenn on the subject of retractions recently. The genesis of the current flame war between the linked sites seems to arisen during that period. When it comes to civility in the blogosphere as it relates to everyday civility I’m reminded of the objection to labeling football as a contact sport; dancing is a contact sport, football is a collision sport…
Finally, Steven Taylor of PoliBlog makes a pretty persuasive case that Occam’s Razor points to the partner.